It’s a good thing, right?

Three legs

It’s pretty obvious that foot hurts! I am hoping that the “good news” is that it’s “only” an abscess.

Freedom’s mysterious hind end lameness took an accelerated curve to the left when I arrived to find him literally standing on three legs. He will put weight on that hoof/leg when asked to walk, but it’s pretty obvious that it’s painful.

It’s pretty horrific to find your horse standing like that. He wasn’t favoring it to that extent when I fed in the morning on Friday, but when I went back to check on him mid day, it had become acute. My heart sunk when I saw him and visions of breaks and dislocations flashed through my mind.

After going through the first few OMG minutes, I started to hope it was a good thing. An abscess brewing in the left hind could have caused the lameness I’d felt last week. Lack of rain has left the ground hard as concrete and I know the horses have been stamping on flies almost continuously. I tried to remind myself that it’s usually the obvious thing that is the problem.

Magic Cushion

In my experience, packing a hoof with Magic Cushion can help draw the abscess out.

A call to the vet calmed me down a bit. She didn’t feel it was essential to come out as an emergency call and suggested that since his appetite was good and he didn’t look distressed other than holding his leg in the air, it was most likely “just” an abscess. I am supposed to treat it like one and then we can revisit it on Tuesday (I’m traveling today).

So, I’ve packed his hoof with Magic Cushion, slipped some Previcox in his grain, and am hoping that he’ll start feeling better soon and that the mysterious lameness will be revealed as a (relatively) minor abscess.

The Shame of Big Lick Walking Horses

While PETA horrified the world with video from the shedrow at Steve Asmussen’s racing barn, the abuse that Big Lick Tennessee Walking Horses (TWH) suffer has mostly gone under the radar, even though, by most accounts, it’s far more pervasive and far more severe. Many of the top show horses olive lives wracked by pain so severe that they don’t want to stand up and are beaten in their stalls.

Last week the Humane Society has released a report that shows that soring techniques are rampant among the trainers of Big Lick Walkers to encourage the highly exaggerated gait known as the “Big Lick” even though the practice was banned in 1970 when the Horse Protection Act (HPA) was passed to protect the horse from intentional soring.

The soring of TWH started in the late 1940s and early 1950s when a few horses with more animation to their gaits started winning championships. While breeding and training created horses with more extravagant gaits, more nefarious methods were soon introduced. Soring involves the application of caustic liquids to the horses legs — commonly used are mustard oil, diesel fuel or kerosene — often with dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) to increase the chemicals’ absorption. Then the legs are wrapped in plastic wrap and left to “cook” until the legs are tender.

In addition to the soring, performance TWHs wear ankle chains and weighted shoes. The combination results in an animated gait where the horses lift their front legs higher and flick them out in front of their bodies, while at the same time the horse crouches on its hind legs to avoid the pain in front. To my eyes, the gait looks both artificial and painful, not beautiful.

The video below is a longer program that talks more about the history of the Tennessee Walking Horse and how the industry could be channeled back toward the breed’s natural gaits. It’s hard to watch at times. One of the saddest statements is when a nationally recognized trainer, who now opposes soring, says that his father taught him how to sore a horse when he was 13 and that for many years he just accepted the practice without understanding that a pain-based gait was wrong. Maybe this time the attention give to the Tennessee Walking Horse will finally help break the cycle of pain for this lovely breed.


Insulin Resistance in Horses


Willow wears the Muzzle of Shame. Don’t worry, even though she looks pitiful, she is still able to eat enough through the hole in the bottom to survive. Sometimes, I wonder if the Muzzle of Shame could be used to stop humans from over eating!

Freedom’s pasture-mate, Willow, was recently diagnosed with Equine Metabolic Syndrom (EMS) or Insulin Resistance (IR).

 What does that mean?

According to the Department of Animal Science at the University of Connecticut,

Glucose (sugar) normally functions to fuel many metabolic processes in the body and is the primary energy currency of the body. Insulin is normally produced in response to elevated blood glucose and is key to the regulation of blood glucose concentrations and glucose utilization. Insulin promotes glucose uptake by cells and promotes formation of glycogen or fat. Insulin resistance is defined as a reduced sensitivity of the body’s cells to insulin’s facilitation of glucose uptake.

Basically what happens in insulin resistance is that the cells become resistant to the glucose uptake action of insulin. Initially, this just means that more insulin is needed (hyperinsulinemia) to keep blood glucose concentrations within normal limits after a starchy or high sugar meal. If it is severe enough even super high insulin concentrations are ineffective and blood glucose may also be abnormally high. The problem is that not only does this limit energy availability to the cells but insulin also has other effects on the body that may be detrimental when it is higher than normal for prolonged periods of time. Unlike humans, horses rarely go into the second stage, where the pancreas becomes “exhausted” and no longer can secrete adequate insulin.

In practical terms, this means that Willow, who only gets enough concentrate to mask her vitamin/mineral supplement, must wear a grazing muzzle because too much sugar could cause an episode of laminitis. In fact, it was because her owner felt digital pulses that she ran a blood panel and got the diagnosis.

It didn’t take Willow very long to figure out that this is NOT FUN. She is getting less tolerant about putting it on, although putting a tiny bit of grain in the muzzle is still enough of a temptation to overcome her reluctance. Unfortunately for Willow the new barn has a lot of grass and she’s mighty peeved that her access is now restricted.

I tried using a muzzle on Freedom when I first got him – not because I need to restrict his eating, but as a way to stop him cribbing. That lasted about 5 minutes. He destroyed two or three grazing muzzles in short order and then refused to let me near him him with a halter.

Have you had to use a grazing muzzle on your horse or pony?

Supplements Made Simple | The Chronicle of the Horse

Supplements Made Easy

Do some of these supplements sound like what you’re looking for?

This is such a wonderful “take” on supplements. I had to laugh out loud.

My particular favorites are below, but Freedom could definitely use “Calm the Hell Down”.

Be Careful What You Ask For

Ideal for the overly-compliant horse who is more interested in pleasing you than saving either of your skins. BCWYAF invokes a mild sense of suspicion, and when fed regularly may result in actual survival instinct. Works best when both horse and rider are supplemented; we recommend maximum dosage for amateur riders.

Is your equine partner too smart for his own good? Does he open gates, untie knots and calculate how to lose shoes only when the farrier is out of town? Do you swear he can log into your calendar app to see your show schedule so he knows when to go lame? Does he just seem to know what you’re thinking before you know it yourself? He needs Dumb-down. Like a liquid lobotomy, Dumb-down’s exclusive, neuro-transmitter destroying formula works to synergistically suppress higher-level thought processes. Let Dumb-down put YOU back at the top of the evolutionary chart. Mildly hallucinogenic for a long-lasting, pleasantly disorienting effect.

Supplements Made Simple | The Chronicle of the Horse.

Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Pot

Honey pot

Curly had the bucket stuck on her nose for a minute or two. Sadly for her, it was empty.

Yesterday the horses got fall shots, including the dreaded Strangles intranasal vaccine. This year we have no stalls, so convincing horses that they wanted to stand still while the syringe is stuck up their noses was, well, challenging.

Curly, usually the mildest member of our herd, is the most difficult when it comes to the Strangles vaccine. She can sense that it’s coming and, even when in a stall, she does not make it easy.

The options: bribery and a rope twitch. Curly is very, very motivated by food. So she got a handful of grain to set the mood. Then she had the twitch applied to her nose (don’t be too worried about her, the action of the twitch releases endorphins and it’s over in less than a minute). Bingo, the vaccine was administered and no one got hurt (I’m shocked when my vet tells me

Winnie the Pooh

The classic Winnie the Pooh illustration of Pooh getting his head stuck.

that some people refuse to twitch their horses, preferring, I suppose, to let the vet take the brunt of displeasure.)

After the traumatic event, Curly got a bit more grain. I left the bucket on the ground and turned around to see it hanging off her nose! It didn’t worry her in the least. Just like Winnie the Pooh and his honey pot.

Settling In

Zelda and Curly explore

Zelda and Curly explore their new pasture.

Stage two of the big move took place today. Zelda and Curly joined Freedom and Willow at their new home.

Zelda went over first (Curly has some stability issues standing in the trailer so I decided to take them separately).

There was much rejoicing when she saw her old friends, including a good old run in the pastures. Zelda sounds like a freight train coming up that hill! Freedom always amazes me by how lightly he moves over the ground, even at a gallop.

Old friends

The horses reconnected over the fence line. There was a lot of sniffing and squealing.

Curly traveled over in fine form and soon she too was reconnecting with her old friends.

Once they’d caught up with the gossip, they took a few more passes up and down the field. One good thing about this much space — they’ll all stay a lot fitter.

I love watching them run. It’s so nice for them to be in a place where they can really let loose.



First the good news


Freedom’s injured foot is so much better. It will still take a long time to fully resolve, but at least the gaping wound has healed.

You might remember that Freedom stepped on his foot a few months back. It happened in the blink of an eye and the wound took forever to heal. Back in January, I reported that we were having issues with proud flesh (Bad Luck Comes in Threes). The good news is that it’s finally better. Two months of deep snow helped keep it iced and clean. A nifty product called PF Wonder Salve, applied every couple of days, helped it heal. I can’t imagine what a nightmare it would have been had the horses been ankle deep in mud.

There will be some long term implications: the hoof capsule is distorted and he will need some extra support as it all grows out, but I’m thrilled with the progress.

PF Wonder Salve

The product helped the wound heal and restricted the growth of proud flesh.

Of course, the bad news is also a result of the snow. While Freedom’s front hooves look good, his hinds are not-so-great. Normally, in the winter I pull his shoes and he emerges in the spring with beautiful feet. The nail holes grow out and the hoof is generally hard and healthy.

Not this year. The hard ground we had earlier left him with very little hoof wall to nail to and bruises on his soles. The deep snow and the cold have meant that he hasn’t moved around much, even though he’s been turned out. Certainly the snow has helped cushion his feet but little movement = less growth. I’ve started him on a hoof supplement and I’m hoping that now that it’s starting to warm up, he’ll start to move around more and get the blood flowing through those hooves.

I haven’t been able to ride since January, so I don’t know yet how tender his feet are under saddle. I’m thinking that he may need hoof boots in the spring to keep him comfortable — those, or glue on shoes. I’ve heard really good things about glue ons in every aspect except for price!

Have any of you tried them? It will be awhile before his hind feet can hold shoes and with his tender TB soles, he will need some protection.

Fun in the snow . . . or not

Here you can see the relative size difference between Zelda and my dog, Woolly Mammoth (aka Woolly).

Here you can see the relative size difference between Zelda and my dog, Woolly Mammoth (aka Woolly).

How much fun you are having in this latest snow depends considerably on your size.

Zelda loves it. She’s fully of energy and although she doesn’t race around for long, she gives some good bucks and rears, trying to convince Curly to join in.

Curly was having none of it this morning, so Zelda tore around the paddock on her own for about 3 minutes (until she tired herself out).

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When Woolly saw Zelda hightailing it around the field, he did the smart thing (I thought) and got the hell out of Dodge.

Unfortunately for him, he decided to stray off the path into fresh snow. The result? He got stuck until I could rescue him and make a new path. Lucky for him I noticed he was missing! Sadly for him, I think he’ll need to stay home until some of the snow melts.

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